19 April 2018


It's Thursday April 19th, a day that my family and I have been excitedly anticipating for quite a while. This is the day on which our son Ian's Bosh! cookbook is launched at an event in Borough Market , London called "Bosh!Fest". All being well, my trusty steed Silver Clint will be whisking Shirley and I down to the capital later this morning.

Here's our invitation...
"We’re delighted that you’ll be joining us to celebrate the publication of BOSH!, the debut cookbook from Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, at the first all-plant festival to be held at Borough Market!

BOSH! FEST takes place from 7- 11pm on Thursday,19th April at Borough Market’s Market Hall and Green Market.

The GUEST entrance/exit to the festival is in Market Hall, on Southwark Street. On arrival you’ll receive a Guest pass and a BOSH! goody bag.
We’ve got a full programme of talks and cookery demos lined up for you with special guests Anna Jones, Dr. Rupy Aujla and The Happy Pear, and some awesome DJs will be playing throughout the evening.

There will be plenty of delicious all-plant food and drinks to enjoy, with cocktails and soft drinks from Lemonaid, beer from Red Church Beer and food from Club Mexicana, Spice Box, and Young Vegans. There is one cashpoint within the festival perimeter and retailers will have card-readers, but please do bring cash if possible to avoid queues.

Don’t forget to share your BOSH! FEST experiences @boshtv @HQStories #boshfest #boshbook

Looking forward to seeing you at Borough Market this Thursday 19th April at 7:00pm!"

18 April 2018


A list of animals that became extinct because of human beings, all now as dead as the fabled dodo....

Atlas wild ass
Bali tiger
Barbary lion
Atlas bear
Big-eared hopping mouse
Caspian tiger on a postage
stamp from Azerbaijan 
Bulldog rat
California grizzly bear
Cape lion
Caribbean monk seal
Carpathian wisent
Caspian tiger
Caucasian wisent
Cebu warty pig
Chadwick Beach cotton mouse
Chatham bellbird
Chatham fernbird
Eastern elk
Falkland Islands wolf
Formosan clouded leopard
Saudi gazelle
Goff's pocket gopher
Great auk
Guam flying fox
Gull Island vole
Haast's eagle
Bubal hartebeest
Hemigrapsus estellinensis
Japanese sea lion
Madeiran scops owl
Martha - the last passenger pigeon in 1912
Mexican grizzly bear
New Zealand owlet-nightjar
Northern Sumatran rhinoceros
Laughing owl
São Miguel scops owl
Carolina parakeet
Passenger pigeon
Piopio (bird)
New Zealand quail
Rocky Mountain locust
San Martín Island woodrat
Schomburgk's deer
Sea mink
Small Mauritian flying fox
North Island snipe
South Island snipe
Dusky seaside sparrow
Steller's sea cow
Stout-legged wren
Syncaris pasadenae
Syrian wild ass
Wake Island rail
Western black rhinoceros
Lyall's wren

The list is not comprehensive and it grows with each passing year. Just look what we done.

17 April 2018


The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Drax
Parts of this Grade I listed church date back to the 12th century
On Saturday, in the village of Drax, two boys of about nine or ten were ambling along the opposite pavement as I drove slowly by. One of them made the famous and vulgar two-fingered salute in my direction, not realising that I was about to park Clint. When I opened the driver's door, the boys scooted off, perhaps imagining that they were about to be chased by a madman. Instead, it just made me chuckle.

Drax is a village with an ancient history. It once had a castle and an Augustinian priory. It sits in flatlands just south of The River Ouse and north of The River Aire. The landscape is crisscrossed with drains. Half a mile away on the opposite bank of the Ouse is Barmby-on-the Marsh where my family lived until 1952 - the year before I was born. There was no bridge to connect the two villages. Instead, a twelve mile round trip was required via Boothferry Bridge Lord knows what people did before that was built.
Drax Power Station
Seen from fifteen miles away in 2014
In the early 1970's something happened to really put Drax on the map and bring the old village's name to the nation's consciousness. A massive coal-fired power station was built on the edge of the place by the Central Electricity Generating Board. It has a generating capacity of 4000 megawats - the most productive power station in the nation and it looms over the landscape. You can see it from miles around.

I tootled round the area for an hour or so having never been to Drax before. With my curiosity salved it was time to continue with my journey over to Hull where I am sorry to say that in spite of dominating the game, The Tigers lost 0-1 to Sheffield Wednesday. Boo-hoo!
Drax Power Station
Seen from Drax Abbey Farm last Saturday

16 April 2018


                                                                                                                   Hover and click to enlarge

It's finished! I am talking about my football crowd picture. In fact it was completed a week ago. 

The idea for this picture wafted into my head a few years back but I only got round to starting it last June. I worked on it intermittently when I was home alone with nothing else to do. That's really why it took so long but in any case, I was in no rush.

I want to thank my real life friend Mick Greaves for remembering the idea I once shared with him. Occasionally, he would enquire if I had started the picture yet and this had the effect of spurring me on. I also want to thank my blogging friend Donna in Colorado who gave me the idea of using different shades of "payne's grey" to colour in the figures. Thanks also to Briony (Brenda) in Brighton, England and to Jennifer in South Carolina for showing genuine enthusiasm for the project and for asking to have cartoon images of themselves in the crowd.

Ever since I was a bored schoolboy frequently enduring lessons that failed to interest me, I have doodled. Usually the doodling came back to cartoon images of people's faces. And at the end of my teaching career, sitting in tedious meetings, I frequently found myself still doodling faces. Consequently, this crowd picture is a celebration of all that aimless drawing - at last it has come to something. Simultaneously, it is also a homage to The Tigers - Hull City A.F.C..
 Briony and Jennifer
 Friends Mike and Mick & Tony
 Son Ian and Daughter Frances
 Stew (Daughter's beau) and Shirley
 Leonardo da Yorkshire (Me)

15 April 2018


Foot binding happened in China for a thousand years - right up to the start of the twentieth century. Apparently, small arched feet were considered beautiful but the practice caused much pain and ultimately - disability. Foot binding was only practised on females from certain social strata. Thank heavens it has been resigned to history.

When it comes to footwear, my prime interest is comfort. I would never for a moment think of wearing high heels as they must surely be incredibly uncomfortable. And yet, here in the western world many women choose to wear outlandish high heels when they have evenings out and some even wear them for work. There is a shared sense that they are stylish and feminine. Some of the heels we see today are very high, narrow and sharp.

Linked with this, hundreds of women each year find themselves in hospital accident and emergency rooms with sprains, broken bones and dislocations  attributed directly to the wearing of high heels. Meanwhile there are still image-conscious businesses that insist that female reception staff and office workers wear high heels as part of their corporate "uniform".

I would be interested to hear what you think about high heels. My view is that they are a modern day echo of Chinese foot binding and that they are a cultural phenomenon in which mostly young women find themselves unconsciously trapped. Arguably, they are a continuing emblem of the subjugation of women and I applaud all women who refuse to subscribe to this ludicrous footwear fashion.

14 April 2018


I just finishing reading a novel. It was "Reservoir 13" by Jon McGregor. My feelings about it are quite conflicted.

On the plus side, I liked the fact that it was set in my backyard - The Peak District. I also admired McGregor's close observations of nature from mating foxes to returning swallows and I liked the sense of a community evolving over a decade. The style of writing is uncomplicated.

A vital thread that runs through the novel concerns the disappearance of a teenage girl called Rebecca Shaw. There are echoed references  to her in every chapter. We are tantalised by possibilities. What did happen to her? Will we ever know?

I know that I am not the only reader who found it difficult to keep tabs on the various villagers who inhabit the novel. None of them ever receives a physical description and there is no dialogue. To me there was something of a cardboard cutout quality about them - they often lacked depth and genuine emotional investment. However, I was prepared to tolerate them because I was keen to find out what had happened to Rebecca Shaw.

The narrator is all-seeing. He sees the bats and details about footpaths, bedroom antics, reservoirs and the botany of the region but he refuses to reveal what happened to Rebecca Shaw. Of course, I accept that neat resolution is not always the duty of  a novelist. Sometimes an open, ambiguous ending is the most appropriate choice, leaving the reader to speculate and wonder. However, in this instance, I felt that I had been the victim of sustained teasing. Rebecca Shaw's life deserved a solution or at least a powerful hint about what had transpired thirteen years beforehand.

When interviewed by Alice O'Keeffe for "The Bookseller", Jon McGregor was asked if he had spent time observing badgers in the wild - perhaps staking out a sett - to which  he laughed, replying, "Um. No. The internet."

In the final analysis, I am glad I bothered to read "Reservoir 13" in spite of my misgivings about it. The language was carefully crafted. Arguably, it was trying to do something different - perhaps shaking up complacent notions about what a novel should be and what it should do...

“Her name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She'd been wearing a white hooded 
top with a navy-blue body-warmer. She would be twenty-three years old by 
now. She had been seen in the beech wood, climbing a tree. She had been 
seen at the railway station. She had been seen by the side of the road. She 
had been looked for, everywhere. She could have arranged to meet somebody, 
and been driven safely away.She could have fallen down a hole. She could 
have been hurt by her parents in some terrible mistake. She could 
have gone away because she'd chosen to, or because she had no choice. 
People still wanted to know.”

13 April 2018


Perhaps you are like me. When writing, I sometimes find myself wanting to use an alternative word to the one that first springs to mind. Perhaps the initial word has been used already or perhaps it is not helping to create the intended effect. I rack my brain trying to think of a different word.

The facility I am about to advertise is not available in "Blogger"  but it is available in "Word". I am sure that some of you out there have known about it for ages but I am equally sure that there will be many visitors who have not yet stumbled across it. It is very useful.

Let's say you have just typed a sentence. Let's say it is this one:-

The wind howled through the trees.

But a voice inside your head says you are not happy with all your word choices. You put your cursor over the word wind. Then you do a right click. You go down the little menu that has appeared  and you see the word "Synonyms". You go right of this and you find "breeze, airstream, gale, squall, gust, storm". You click on the alternative word you judge to be best and the word "wind" is automatically replaced.
Then you look at "howled" and "trees" in the same way, considering alternatives and you might also think about adjectives that could be inserted, till you finally come up with..

An arctic squall wailed through the skeletal saplings.

Okay, I know this is a slightly artificial OTT sentence and sometimes simplicity is preferable but I am just trying to promote the use of the "Synonyms" facility. It's there at your fingertips when using "Word" and I know that many computer users are not aware of it. It can save a lot of brain scratching as you try to come up with replacement words. It is simply a quick and potentially very helpful  aide memoire though naturally it also requires good judgement as you weigh up replacement auxiliary standby additional emergency other possibilities.

11 April 2018


Cat up a tree in Barrow-upon-Trent
Yesterday I was in a town called Burton-upon-Trent. My beloved football team, Hull City, were playing an evening game against Burton Albion.

When I booked my ticket, ten days ago, I imagined that I would enjoy a long walk in South Derbyshire before having a meal in Burton and then heading to the match.

However, yesterday's weather was against me. It was a dank, moist day with a thick quilt of cloud pressing down upon the land. Not the kind of day for joyous rambling. Besides, the farming land in The Trent Valley was saturated with ditches and dikes overflowing and the colourless lanes all  bepuddled.
Dank weather at Ticknall
I had a stroll in the village of Barrow-upon-Trent and then had another in Repton where there is a famous private school - once attended by the author Roald Dahl and the Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. Both took away vivid memories of bullying and punishment.

Then it was on to Burton-upon-Trent - a rather sad town, famous for brewing beer. I admit that it is very possible that the mood of sadness was down to the dank weather. There seemed to be very few early evening dining options so I ended up in the rear "restaurant" section of  Tommy's Fish Bar with manna from heaven - battered cod, chips and mushy peas with a slice of bread and butter and a pot of tea. 
Squirrel in St Modwen's churchyard, Burton-upon-Trent
Then on to the match where I met a man that I last saw fifty years ago. He lived in the next village and was himself a pretty good footballer.

Dank mistiness shrouded the floodlit sporting theatre in front of us and Hull City - also known as The Tigers - thrashed Burton Albion by five goals to nil. It could have been two or three more than that but it was our best away league victory since we beat Glossop  by the same score in March, 1915. More than a hundred years ago!

I drove home sensibly in the swirling mist and even managed to grab a couple of celebratory pints of bitter in our local pub before closing time.
Bull above the entrance to
Burton-upon-Trent's Market Hall

10 April 2018


The Duchenne smile is a genuine smile. It just happens. The corners of the mouth rise and there is a natural contraction of muscles around the eyes. This kind of smile will often precede genuine laughter. It is the kind of smile I like to display and to witness. 

However, as I am sure you have noticed yourself, many smiles we give out and see are false or pretend smiles. They happen when the brain sends out a signal to the mouth to form the familiar smile shape. Then there is no muscular contraction around the eyes.

Such smiles occur in various social situations. For example, we smile when attending job interviews or being introduced to new people. Such moments can be stressful but the smile attempts to mask that stress. It is as if we associate smiles with the best versions of ourselves. This is why contestants in beauty pageants smile all the time.

When I was fourteen, a cricket ball hit me in the mouth and damaged my front teeth. One prominent tooth had to have the nerve removed and by the time I reached my late teens it was no longer pearly white. In fact, it was turning grey.

I was very conscious of it, probably over-conscious, and developed a way of smiling that was unnatural - keeping my teeth hidden from view. I have noticed other people smiling in that way and the usual reason is similar self-consciousness about  teeth. That way of smiling can send out signals that can easily be misinterpreted in a negative way. We all like to see "genuine" smiles.

My grey tooth was fixed a few years ago and it was suddenly a delight to feel confident about my smile.

In my life I have come across people who smile far too much. Not Duchenne smiles but those false or pretend smiles. They can mask so much. Most of these smilers are insecure people who may be under the misapprehension that to be liked or appreciated all you have to do is keep smiling, 

9 April 2018


Over at "Procrastinating Donkey", Jenny in Nova Scotia, poses regular poetry challenges. Today's challenge was to write a poem on the theme of "Ignorance". Now ignorance is something I know a lot about. In fact I am a veritable expert in ignorance.  Consequently, I decided to craft a poem on the subject.  Here it is. dear seekers of secrets...

8 April 2018


Bishops' House yesterday
Saturday was a dull, overcast day. Shirley had never been to The Bishops' House in Meersbrook Park so we decided to pay it a visit, aiming to  join the guided tour scheduled for 2pm.

The City of Sheffield is home to half a million people but it is not an ancient historical English city like York or Chester or Lincoln or my true hometown - Hull. Essentially, Sheffield owed its growth to the industrial revolution. Before that it was little more than a large village with a medieval castle that was demolished and almost erased from memory during The English Civil War of the seventeenth century.

There are regions of England where you can still find many timber-framed houses and farm buildings that are redolent of distant times but in Sheffield with its focus on metal industries and functionalism, there are very few old timber-framed buildings to be seen. You could count them on the fingers of one hand.
The dining room in Bishops' House yesterday
One survivor is The Bishops' House. In its construction several, large oak beams were employed. Recent dentrochronological investigation has concluded that these beams were cut from the surrounding forest in 1553 so the first part of the house was built in 1554. It is estimated that one of the major beams upstairs weighs more than a ton. It is mind boggling to imagine how the builders got it into the position it has now occupied for almost five hundred years.
The first section of the house
was built during the reign of
Queen Mary I

The house saw many changes through the centuries. It was never a particularly grand house though the family that first owned it were reasonably well-off and developed a successful scythe-making business. No bishops ever lived in the house or indeed were born there. The name "Bishops' House" was a Victorian affectation. Lord knows how that bishop rumour arose.

In the early twentieth century, the building became a home for the families of two park workers but in the 1970's somebody  had the vision to give the house a new lease of life as a museum operated by the city council.  Nowadays its management is the responsibility of a team of local volunteers, including the young woman who led us round on our little tour.

It was a most pleasant and instructive way to pass a grey Saturday afternoon.
Bishops' House in the summer of 2010

7 April 2018


Yesterday morning Shirley and I watched a morning TV show we had never seen before - "This Morning" hosted by Rylan Clark-Neal  and Emma Willis. It is a chatty, upbeat "magazine" type programme with a generally light and smiley mood.

Now, why on earth should we be watching such a show? Mmmm... one or two of the more perceptive  blog visitors will have guessed already and I am sorry if this is becoming slightly tiresome - our son Ian was on the show with his "Bosh!" partner - Henry Firth.
They chatted with Rylan and Emma and in the studio's  kitchen area produced a meat-free chilli and cauliflower buffalo wings in batter. Timewise, it was all pretty pressurised but Ian and Henry managed to pull it off and came across as cool cats - The Bosh Boys.
After the live show they travelled by cab to Harper Collins - their publishers. They had a few jobs to do - signing six hundred copies of the cookbook  and finalising arrangements for their forthcoming promotional trip to America.

It's a hard life being the father of a celebrity chef. Thank you for your forbearance and understanding.
To visit the "Bosh!" website go HERE. To the top right it contains symbol links to their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and You Tube pages etcetera.

6 April 2018


Thursday was a lovely blue sky day. Clint took me and her ladyship east of Sheffield and across the border into Nottinghamshire. In the village of Carlton-in-Lindrick, we headed west towards Wallingwells. We parked up at the point where the tarmac road turns into a track and donned our walking boots.

Immediately, I spotted an eye-catching old lodge house that must have once guarded the entrance to the Wallingwells Hall estate. We walked on and followed one muddy path after another.  I am sure that life can present us with far worse things but squelching along muddy paths is not the most pleasing human activity.
Shirley's i-phone picture with yours truly from behind
At one point, Shirley clicked me on her phone. It was a bloody awful path, made worse by horses. We clung to the edges of the so-called path and occasionally. our boots were gripped by the ankle-deep mud. A "Schloop!"  sound was emitted when we managed to pry our boots out of the quagmire.

Effectively we were circling the woodland that encloses Wallingwells Hall and the remains of Wallingwells Castle with its ruinous gardens. Having finished our orbit we were none the wiser. It all remains a woodland mystery.
Returning to Clint with our now entirely brown boots we saw wood anemones like fallen stars by the paths in Wallingwells Woods. Hungry and thirsty, we soon headed to the humble cafe at Langold Country Park like soldiers returning from the trenches. But it was still a lovely day out with the signs of springtime bursting everywhere in the bright sunshine.
Junction of bridleways in what was once Wallingwells Park

5 April 2018


The man above is seventy eight years old. His name is Richard Osborn-Brooks and he lives in south-east London. On Tuesday night, just after midnight he heard noises below while settling down to sleep in his suburban bedroom. 

He went downstairs and discovered two much younger men - complete strangers who had broken into his home and were preparing to burgle Richard and his wife.

One of the burglars was armed with a screwdriver. There was a struggle in the kitchen during which Richard grabbed a knife and plunged it into the chest of one of the intruders.

This thirty eight year old man managed to stumble out of the house and into the street with the knife still embedded in his chest. A getaway driver sped away as neighbours came out into the street to see what was going on.

Paramedics were called but the stabbed burglar died later in hospital.

And now we come to the reason for this blogpost. Following the burglar's death, Richard Osborn-Brooks was arrested on suspicion of murder. Can you believe it?

A man approaching the age of eighty, bravely protects himself, his wife  and his home, killing a dishonest man who has no doubt been responsible for numerous other unsolved burglaries in the area - and he ends up being arrested!

Perhaps I have an illiberal way of looking at some things but in my way of thinking Richard Osborn-Brooks deserves a medal, and a message of gratitude from The Queen. He has done society a great service and it is astounding and quite unforgivable that he is being quizzed as a potential murderer. He is not a murderer, he is a hero! I would like to think that if I had been in Richard's awful situation, I would have done the same.

STOP PRESS After a night in a police cell, Richard has 
now been bailed pending further enquiries.

4 April 2018


Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr was brutally assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The night before, at The Mason Temple, also in Memphis, he had delivered his moving "I've Been to The Mountaintop" speech:-

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

Fifty years have passed. On this significant day, let us salute the great man. He left  us far too early but his powerful legacy of hope and freedom has not departed.

Has anyone here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lot of people
But it seems the good die young.
I just looked around and he was gone.

3 April 2018


Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous county in Central Asia. It is sandwiched between Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south and China's Xinjiang province to the east. Kyrgyzstan has a population of around six million souls and its capital is Bishkek with a population of just under one million. 

The forty-rayed yellow sun in the centre of the nation's flag represent the forty tribes that once made up the entirety of Kyrgyz people before the intervention of Russia during the rise of the Soviet Union. The lines inside the sun represent the crown or tündük  of a yurt, a symbol replicated in many facets of Kyrgyz architecture. The red portion of the flag represents peace and openness.
Kyrgyzstan is a poor country but gradually things are improving. Economically, its main sources of revenue are minerals, metal processing and agriculture.

The country lies on the famous silk road that linked China with Europe. Warring horsemen from Kyrgyzstan's mountains were frequently among those who raided China prior to the construction of The Great Wall. The horse has always played a vital role in Kyrgyz society and even today horse milk or "kumis" remains the national drink.
It would be possible to devote a month of blogposts to Kyrgyzstan but I am going to stop here as I realise that a number of blog visitors have the attention span of a goldfish. Perhaps this post has whetted your appetite to learn more about Kyrgyzstan. 

Should the Kyrgyzstan authorities be monitoring this blog, I will be happy to visit Kyrgyzstan on your behalf and feed back later with associated photographs thereby encouraging an increase in tourism to your fascinating and very beautiful country. You only have to say the word and reserve my flights and accommodation - but no horse milk thank you very much!
A view of Bishkek

2 April 2018


A year ago, the long-suffering wife and I stayed on the Welsh island of Anglesey. It was a great holiday. One day we went to the coastal village of Rhosneigr and spotted a weathered wooden face looking out to sea. Naturally I snapped photographs of him. One of them is shown below.

Partly inspired by Steve Reed's last post in which he shared a picture of a house edited with a phone app called  Waterlogue, I put my picture through a free online photo editing facility and came up with the picture shown above. Results like this start to make painting feel like too much trouble. 

By the way, that's a bird on top of the figure's head. For obvious reasons, he reminded me of Easter Island which I had the privilege of visiting almost nine years ago. It was a magical trip.

1 April 2018


Parents who boast about their children's achievements are so tiresome - don't you think?  Remember last weekend when I bragged about our Ian's appearance in "The Mail on Sunday" and Michael Ball's Radio 2 chat show? Well here we go again.

Yesterday, Ian and Henry appeared on the front page of "The Times". Okay, it was just a little picture down in the corner  but it was still the front page of possibly the most famous newspaper on the planet. The corner picture had a little strapline - "The vegan Jamie Olivers".
Saturday's "Times" contains a lifestyle magazine and within this there was a three page article about "Bosh!" along with eight recipes from their imminent cookbook. The main text suggested that the time-served  interviewer was somewhat bemused by "Bosh!" and their infectious enthusiasm for plant-based cookery. She was like a zoologist observing primates.

Even so it was all useful coverage. As they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity and later in the same magazine, "Bosh!" are listed as the third most influential force in promoting  veganism around the world. That list was headed by Beyoncé, the famous American singer-songwriter.

Okay. Parental ego trip over.